And What If We Unchained Him?
Recent Washington Post editorials on #IRAA focus on applicants’ adolescent criminality, but those aren’t the men I know.
It’s 2 PM on a Friday and I’m standing at the back of room 218 at the H. Carl Moultrie Courthouse in Washington DC, wedged between a wooden bench and the wall. The room is packed — a gentleman in joggers and a suit coat stands immediately to my left while another holds the door open behind me. A young child kneels before me, on the floor. A young clerk, visibly flustered, runs back and forth with stacks of plastic chairs.
My friend Halim Flowers, a “juvenile lifer” and DC native, takes a seat on a wooden bench up front.
I first met Halim over coffee at Tryst. I reached out to him on Instagram regarding an interview he’d done on food justice in prisons. He brought along Kristin Adair; the friendship and connection with both were instant. Halim shared more of his own story and I confided my anxiety upon learning B. — at that point a longtime friend — had gotten caught up in the local justice system.
“I know B.,” Halim reassured me. “He’s one of the good ones.”
I’ll admit, with hindsight, that I was nervous. It’s not every day you wake up and grab coffee with a man just released after 22 years in prison for accessory to murder. And while my writer-side would love to [insert dramatic Law & Order tension] here, coffee was just that.
With an entrepreneur, poet and activist who used to be a child.
It wouldn’t occur to me until after the fact that I knew that child’s face from an HBO Documentary, Thug Life in DC. On the TV screen, we see Halim as a 16-year-old boy, placing his palm against bullet proof glass to meet his mother’s.
The man I know now was released under the city’s Incarceration Reduction Amendment Act on March 21st of this year, and for good reason. In recent years, the Supreme Court has reconsidered the unusually cruel forms of punishment our society has placed on juveniles, from life without parole to solitary confinement (a practice that, while it has been discontinued federally, continues in state and county jails.) The rulings are based on neuroscience research that shows what seems fairly obvious to anyone who has ever been, lived with, or raised an adolescent youth: our brains, however f*cked up and miswired, continue…